the distance between us

My sister lives on a lake in Maine. She has a lovely home and invited us to visit, while she was away last weekend. We took her up on the offer. Now, I know my sister. I know the struggles and joys she has experienced in life. I know her personality, her talents and her deepest desires, but last weekend as I walked around inspecting her home I saw her; I felt her joy and pain, I recognized her in a new tone, a different shade, and even though she was not present, she was there.
My sister is a passionate, talented and disciplined woman. What I realized after being in her space is this: how easy it is to know someone by the patterns and repetitions they allow to radiate from them. We sprinkle ourselves throughout our dwellings. For example, I saw how challenging it is for her to let go of the sweet moments when her children were young by the quantity of photos she keeps within eyesight. I saw how tightly she clings to God by the number of bible verses adorning her walls. I saw the promises that mean the most to her. I saw her as a confident, independent woman. I was impressed by how tidy and organized she kept things; in contrast to the young mother with four children that always had dishes in the sink and laundry piled up, whom I spent so much time with years ago, labeling. Life can be overwhelming and when people are overwhelmed they lose their true selves in the powerless mess of everyday living. It doesn’t mean it’s who they are, it’s just what they are going through.
She wasn’t planning on having us, it was a spontaneous invite, and yet, here she had left her entire world, naked for my viewing. I got a peek of not who she wanted me to see, but who she really is. It was beautiful to see her exposed, raw nature, and her real colors radiant and throbbing like a heartbeat throughout her home. I think what we all want deep down inside, is to be known for who we are in the secret, in the alones of life. Even God wants us to see him for who He really is, but how can that happen? How can He show us who He really is? Could he come down to earth naked and vulnerable, make a home in us, and then hide behind a heavenly curtain, so that we can experience his nature, without fearing his presence?
When you visit someone’s home without them present, you see them. You breathe them in and you see their marks everywhere. You witness the walls, the tables, the rooms, the closets. Details that your eyes may overlook with someone standing beside you. It’s easy to satisfy your curiosity when no one is looking. Dishes, perfumes and the contents of the fridge become the language and conversations that you silently engage in. You are free to observe how that person cares for the things they live among. You see what they like, what they remember and what their passions are. You are aware of who they care about and what they are looking forward to; what their thoughts are, their dreams, their abilities, what their losses feel like, where they spend their time on and what they value. Do they have a TV in every room? That alone, speaks volumes, are there posters of mountains and lakes scattered around, in that too you hear their voice. Do they clean up or leave trash around, do they have lists and plans and half-filled measuring cups of rice? Each answer tells a story. You can see what they most love by the photos on their nightstands and bureaus. Even though they’re not home, their home reveals their soul.
I believe God wants to work inside His people placing his marks there, change their décor, move in and make a home so that, unbelievers can stop in and see God, the way I saw my sister, genuine. I saw her activity, her plans, and her ways. I believe God wants skeptics to come visit and interact in His temples: not buildings of stone and wood, but men and woman who have followed him, served him in faithfulness, spirit and truth, and allowed him to decorate their hearts as his home.. He wants them to visit us, but know him by the writing on our walls. Nonbelievers can know God by what he has placed within his people; what he values, what he spends time on, what he loves and hates and wants. God leaves his mark in us, around us and on us when he spends time with us, when he answers our prayers, when he blesses us, heals us, delivers us and lives in us.
God is rich, and he takes good care of his house. Whatever the times and circumstances bring, if we have his marks; then we have evidence of his presence within us. If we are his abode – we don’t have to chase people down with “truth”, truth lives in us, through the Holy Spirit, and we can welcome people to see God in our lives, in our hearts in our choices. No one can take that away, no one can remove His substance from us—this is our testimony- the things he has done in our lives become the decorations on our walls. They are permanent, they are real and they are powerful. Jesus said, “But if I do His work, believe in the evidence of the miraculous works I have done, even if you don’t believe me. Then you will know and understand that the Father is in me and I am in the father.” John 10:38. This is how we know him, we hang out with others who have experienced him, we fellowship, we read his word, we pray – and although we don’t see him …we know him.
So we spent some time with my sister this past weekend…well sort of.

“If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him, and make Our abode with him.” John 14:23

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